Thursday, August 18, 2011

The California Helmet Law Moves Onward…

                                 Pat Milberry

The infamous bill that has been circulating the California Legislature for over a year now has finally reached the desk of California Governor, Jerry Brown. Last Monday, California State Legislature passed SB 105-the bill that allows authorities to fine parents of helmet-less shredders $25 if they’re caught riding without a helmet. The bill also enforces resorts to do their part, and post descriptions of the law on the slopes, websites, and trail maps.

Back in June 2011, the California State Congress passed two separate bills to mandate helmets on minors while riding the slopes. San Francisco Senator Leland Yee (D) introduced the bill, and has sponsored the movement, stating, “When you have thousands of accidents where there are brain injuries of some sort, nearly half of those injuries could have been prevented if the youngsters wore a helmet.” And with California claiming home to more snowboarders than any other state, (19.4% or 1.5 million to be exact, according to SIA), there is no doubt this bill could start a ripple effect across the country, if enacted.

Helmet retailers argue, although the law is a good start, there also needs to be strict guidelines aimed at helmet manufactures on what represents a “safe helmet.”

“I’d say this is a lot of the cart before the horse,” said Kirsten Andrae, general manager of Briko North America. “I’d like to see laws about what constitutes a good helmet first. There is still a hell of lot of leeway between what is sold as a helmet in this country and what is good protection for your child’s head.”

Highly publicized accidents-such as that of pro snowboarder Kevin Pearce in December 2009-have rocked the industry, and have certainly made more aware of the importance in wearing helmets while riding. Although Pearce suffered extensive brain damage when he crashed on a halfpipe in Park City, UT while training for the Olympics, he contributes his helmet to saving his life. SIA reported that high-profile injuries have attributed to a 1.2 million-unit spike in helmet sales over the past year.

If Governor Brown decides to enact the bill, all skiers and snowboarders under the age of 18 will need to wear a helmet while riding California’s slopes. Former Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill last year due to its link to ski resort safety legislation, and its imposition on additional resort regulations.

The country’s first ski helmet law was enacted in New Jersey earlier this year, and has seen significant support.
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